Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday - Bucket List Edition: Places to Visit in Portugal #2

Hey everyone! Time has come for another Wanderlust Wednesday. Weeks go so damn fast, geez. Anyway, I am still astonished at the success of my last week's WW post about a (very small) part of my wanderlust bucket list. Of places in Portugal, that is.  To see this post shared in Twitter and its pictures throughout Pinterest was more than simply gratifying. I am happy to make you guys know about the wonders of this small and often forgotten country... so today, as hinted last week, I am carrying on with my list of portuguese places I'd love to visit someday. If you haven't checked the first part yet, feel free to do so here. Happy scrolling! :)

Again in no particular order...

1. Buçaco Palace and National Forest (Palácio e Mata Nacional do Buçaco), Aveiro

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The Buçaco (formerly Bussaco) Natural Forest is a protected area with botanical species from around the world. It is located in the mountain range where the Battle of Buçaco was fought, in the early 19th century. Later in the same century, the Royal Palace (currently Buçaco Palace Hotel) was erected in the place of an old convent which was then partially demolished. This palace is considered the last legacy of portuguese kings.

2. Óbidos, Leiria

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This lovely medieval-like town started as a Roman settlement, and its current name derives from the Latin word for "citadel" or "fortified city". And indeed, Óbidos is completely enclosed by medieval walls. It's basically a village in a castle! How cool is that? Streets are cobbled and most of the houses are whitewashed with bright blue and yellow borders. Plus, every July, the castle hosts a traditional Medieval Market, recreating the spirit of medieval Europe with flowing banners, a handcrafts fair, medieval shows... much like Santa Maria da Feira, I suppose. And I love Santa Maria's medieval fair, so I'm sure I'd go crazy with this one!

3. Côa Valley Archaeological Park (Parque Arqueólogico do Vale do Côa), Guarda

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These prehistoric rock-art sites are located along the Côa river as the largest open-air Paleolithic archeological complex ever discovered! This complex comprises thousands of engraved drawings of horses, bovines and other animal and human figures dated from 22 000 to 10 000 years BC. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the park offers guided visits by appointment. Last year I spent a weekend in Almendra, which is relatively close to the park, but since it was kind of an unplanned and short trip there wasn't time to see much. But someday! :)

4. Mafra National Palace (Palácio Nacional de Mafra), Lisbon

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Once upon a time, a king made a vow to build a convent if his wife, the queen, gave him descendants. And when the princess Barbara of Braganza was born, the king (that would be John V, 1707-1750) ordered the construction of what came to be the Mafra palace and monastery. It was initially a small project, but when the gold started to flow from the portuguese colony of Brazil, the king changed his plans and. Today, the Mafra National Palace "is among the most sumptuous Baroque buildings in Portugal and one of the biggest buildings constructed in Europe in the 18th century" (in Wikipedia). What attracts me the most, however, is the palace's library, which is often considered one of the most beautiful libraries by various sources, and even the most awesome library in the world by Book Riot; not only because of its Rococo grandiosity and marble tiles, but also because of its really unique way of preserving the books against insects- bats!

5. São Miguel, Azores (Açores)

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Although I've been to the Azores once in the past, I was only a toddler back then. I don't remember a single thing about that trip; I just know it because I was told about it. So of course this is on my list. This archipelago is composed of nine volcanic islands, however, if I had to choose one, I'd probably prefer to visit São Miguel, for it is the largest and most diversified island, in terms of both landscape and culture/activities. It's often referred as "The Green Island" for its verdant plains, wild mountains, lagoons and beaches. As for activities, the island offers outdoor hikes, bird watching, jeep rides, swimming and diving, sailing, fishing, whale sighting and even swimming with dolphins... in the wild! I mean, that's just one of my childhood dreams!

6. Tróia Peninsula (Península de Tróia), Setúbal

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This peninsula was once the place of a Roman settlement, whose ruins can still be found around the place. It was an industrial settlement back then, focused on fishing, fish preservation and its exportation. Today, besides the archaeological sites, there are many hotels, cafes, a harbour, a swimming pool and white sand beaches facing the Atlantic Ocean. (And there be dolphins, too!)

7. Caves of Mira de Aire (Grutas de Mira de Aire), Leiria

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As one of the seven natural wonders of Portugal, these grottoes must be such a must-visit. I think - think - I've been there once in a school trip back when I was a kid. If that's the case, then it's just like the Azores thing. I don't remember anything. Anyway, the caves of Mira de Aire are over 150 millions of years old, which dates to the Jurassic period, when dinossaurs roamed the local mountain range. Even though they're about 11 km long, only 600 meters of these caves are open to the public. But even so, right?

8. Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros), Sintra

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The medieval Moorish Castle (or Castle of the Moors) was built during the period of Muslim Iberia (8th-9th centuries) on the top of the Sintra Mountains. With its panoramic view over the municipality of Sintra, it was an important strategic point during the Reconquista after christians took the castle from the moors. It's classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And man, those views look breathtaking.

9. Diverlanhoso Adventure Park, Braga

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This is one of the biggest adventure parks in the Iberian Peninsula, accomodating around 50 different activities in nature! Outdoor hiking, treasure hunting, cycling, jeep riding, canoeing, rappel, climbing, archery and paintball are only some of the offers. Oh, the possibilities! There are also houses made of tree trunks for those wishing to spend the night, as well as many other services. Plus, it's pretty close to the Peneda-Gerês National Park, so the sceneries should be pretty outstanding.

I hope you've enjoyed this second part of my bucket list series of places to visit in Portugal. If you've been in any of these places, or have any other suggestions for me to add to my list, feel free to leave a comment below! That being said, stay tuned for more Wanderlust Wednesday, and enjoy the rest of your week!

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